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The Top 10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Writing

Introduction

I didn’t start writing until I was twenty.

I don’t mean I didn’t start taking writing seriously until I was twenty, I mean I didn’t write anything that wasn’t for a school assignment until I was twenty.

No short stories.

No poems.

No novels.

No nonfiction.

OK, scratch that last one. I did write about thirty pages of a memoir on my old IBM Aptiva. I have no idea where that partial manuscript is, and that’s probably for the best.

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When I transferred to Beloit College, I decided to become a Creative Writing major because it seemed like fun, and it was, but back then I had many, many, MANY misconceptions about what being a writer meant.

Top Ten Things I Wish I Knew About Writing As A Twenty-Year-Old Absolute Beginner

1. Writing is rewriting.

You just finished your novel. Great. Now the fun really begins.

2. Rewriting is not a quick process.

God may have created the Earth in six days; however, you will not complete your manuscript in anywhere near that time frame.

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3. Working with an editor isn’t optional, but necessary.

My short stories wouldn’t have been published without the assistance of Rairigh Drum, who was my developmental editor. My screenplays wouldn’t have attracted the attention of a New York Times best-selling author and a screenwriter who has worked with Spielberg without the assistance of a developmental editor. My non-fiction book wouldn’t have…you get the point.

4. Writing well isn’t enough, you need to think like an entrepreneur to get noticed.

Is it ugly? Yeah, maybe, but the days of the pure writer who refuses to attend to the business end of things is over. Those writers are doomed to obscurity.

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5. Success doesn’t come overnight.

Trust the process. If you know that you’re good, go out and prove it. Stay the course, and don’t lose your confidence if you don’t rapidly advance.

6. Networking with other writers (and, if possible, with editors, publishers, and agents) can open up many doors.

Remember that saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Well, it’s both. Don’t be isolated.

7. Most publishers will have zero interest in your writing and will reject it, but this doesn’t mean that you don’t have talent.

Publishers and agents receive an incredibly large amount of submissions. They also usually have very strict criteria about what types of work they publish/represent. Receiving rejections is inevitable. I’ve had over 60 short stories and poems published and scout publications carefully, and still only have an acceptance rate of about 25-30%.

8. You can’t half ass your way to quality writing; you have to whole ass it.

If you’re planning on going through the motions, just put down your pen and give it up.

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9. Not all writers are miserable people, and you don’t have to be miserable to write.

Although I won’t lie, sometimes it helps. 😉

10. You don’t have to drink to excess to write well, but sometimes it can be fun.

Nostrovia!

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Conclusion

“He wins his battles by making no mistakes. Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory.” – Lao Tzu

Don’t make mistakes based on incorrect perspectives about being a writer.

Make writing a consistent habit, work with an editor that you can trust, network, realize this is a process, and try to keep a sense of humor. If you do all that, and you have some talent, you’ll be more than fine.

What Do You Wish You Knew When You Started Writing?

Leave a comment below!

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In Need Of An Editor?

Check out my editing services page.

Fighting the good fight with you,
Alfonso

Sex, Drugs, and Lit: Ten Authors Who Personify Edge

We all have our biases. When it comes to literature, I have a strong preference for transgressive writing. Transgressive writing has little regard for the niceties of polite society, or what’s respectable to the traditional turtlenecked literary man or woman. Transgressive writers are outlaws, and as such present life on the edge. As someone who writes transgressive literature, these ten authors are huge inspirations.

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  1. Charles Bukowski

A red pill writer on the nature of romantic relationships, the horses, and life in general, Bukowski is still the ace of the field.

Representative Work: Women

2. Hunter S. Thompson

He rode with the Hell’s Angels and took more drugs than thought humanly possible.

Representative Work: The Rum Diary

3. Bret Easton Ellis

An LA bad boy, with work filled with the glitz and sleaze that permeate the world of the rich elite.

Representative Work: American Psycho

4. Junot Diaz

Both socially aware and extremely raw, Junot Diaz might be the best writer alive.

Representative Work: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

5. Irvine Welsh

He wrote the book that inspired Trainspotting. Nuff said.

Representative Work: Skagboys

6. William S. Burroughs

He shot his wife, was a heroin addict, and did some of the most interesting experimental prose ever written.

Representative Work: Junky

7. Terry Southern

He co-wrote a borderline pornographic novel based on Voltaire’s Candide.

Representative Work: Candy

8. Tao Lin

The godfather of hipster lit.

Representative Work: Taipei

9. Chuck Palahniuk

The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club…

Representative Work: Fight Club

10. Daniel Clowes

He introduced Enid and Rebecca, two of the biggest BAMF’s in comic history.

Representative Work: Ghost World

Honorable Mention: David Foster Wallace

Did I miss anyone? Who is your favorite transgressive or alt-lit writer?